India's Iron Lady Irom Chanu Sharmila from Manipur expressed disappointment with the lifting of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) from a few specific areas under the jurisdiction of 15 police stations (PS) of only six districts in her home state.
The Government of India removed AFSPA from specific areas in the jurisdiction of nine police stations in six districts with effect from April 1, 2022. In 2004, AFSPA was lifted from areas under the jurisdiction of six police stations in two districts.
"People living under the jurisdiction of 15 police stations in only six districts will be free from AFSPA. What about the remaining people living in the areas where AFSPA has not been removed yet?" Irom Sharmila said in an exclusive telephonic interview to the Imphal Free Press on Friday.
Pointing out that the democratic rights of those people who are living in AFSPA-imposed areas are still suppressed, Sharmila said it is time to end AFSPA issue from Manipur by abolishing the draconian Act completely from all over the state.
"It’s time to start focusing on development and connectivity to make Manipur self-reliant," Sharmila added.
While making the announcement to reduce disturbed areas under AFSPA in Manipur from April 1, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren had informed mediapersons in the state of the plan to invite Sharmila to honour her in recognition of her selfless struggle of 16-year hunger strike for the repeal of AFSPA, an Act of India that grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces to maintain public order in "disturbed areas".
"I haven't received any invitation yet. However, I will be glad to accept the invitation if any," the Iron Lady said, adding, “Such a function to honour me by the state will give me a platform to raise the issue of AFSPA and to make a demand for lifting it from the entire state."
According to Irom Sharmila, she is currently living in Bengaluru city in Karnataka. When asked about her health, she said her health is in “good condition”.
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Meanwhile, Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, Manipur, while speaking to the Imphal Free Press, welcomed the decision of the Government of India to remove AFSPA from some areas of Manipur, saying it is a step in the right direction.
Loitongbam said that the announcement came as a bit of a surprise as the Bharatiya Janata Party in the run-up to the recent Assembly election in the state, is the only party that did not mention the issue of AFSPA in its manifesto.
“However, this is not the end. AFSPA is fundamentally a draconian Act. We would like to see total repeal of the Act so that the people of the Northeast enjoy the same rights as other citizens of the country. Many more steps need to be taken to deliver justice to the people of Northeast,” he added.
The nine police stations in six districts where AFSPA has been lifted with effect from April 1 are Sekmai PS, Lamsang PS and Patsoi PS in Imphal West district, Lamlai PS and Irilbung PS in Imphal East district, Bishnupur PS in Bishnupur district, Kakching PS in Kakching district, Thoubal PS in Thoubal district and Jiribam PS in Jiribam district.
Earlier in 2004, the Government of India had lifted AFSPA from some areas of Imphal East and Imphal West districts under the jurisdiction of six police stations. The police stations are Imphal PS, Lamphel PS, City PS, Singjamei PS, Porompat PS and Heingang PS.
In total, AFSPA was has been lifted from the jurisdiction of 15 police stations in Manipur. Till date, AFSPA has not been removed from any areas in hill districts of the state.